“His examination revealed that he had no fever, no pain anywhere, and that his only concrete feeling was an urgent desire to die. All that was needed was shrewd questioning…to conclude once again that the symptoms of love were the same as those of cholera.”
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
When I was visiting my mother in the states, my neighbor, Julio, posted this photo of our puppy on Facebook. He said, “Don’t worry, Debbie. I’ll take care of Capie for you while Ron is in the hospital.”
Where are my mommy and daddy?
Frantically, I called Ron. He was admitted to our local hospital with severe dehydration. I knew he hadn’t been feeling well, but he reassured me that he had everything under control. Still, after shrewd questioning…Do you have a fever? Did you wash the mangoes before eating them? Did you drink the unpasteurized milk or cheese that Marina made for us from Princesa? Do the blood tests indicate parasites? …I concluded that the symptoms of distant love were the same as those of cholera.
Did they use gloves when they inserted the IVs I wondered.
Simone gathered bedding for Ron’s stay in the hospital ( it’s a bare bones kind of place). Robinson brought Gatorade and yogurt to coat and smooth his stomach ravaged by a massive bacterial infection and replenish electrolytes. Theresa translated test results from Spanish to English for me. Gloria barked orders at the hospital, while Theresa and Francisco tended to Ron like protective mother hens.
Smile for the camera, Ron. I need to reassure Debbie.
After four IVs with strong antibiotics, Ron was released from the hospital with four syringes, four vials of another potent antibiotic, and a week of pills to counteract the infection. Theresa gave him his daily injections and I returned to a weak, yet alive husband.
Yesterday, he returned to the lab and the results of his stool and blood samples indicated the bacterial infection was gone. What a relief! I am so grateful for my loving friends, the doctors and nurses that cared for him with limited supplies, and a community that cares. Plus, the total cost was $30. The hospital was free, but he went to a private clinic for the lab tests, and he had to pay a little for the pills and antibiotic injections.
How to avoid a massive bacterial infection in a developing country.
1. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
We use 5-10 drops of iodine in a quart of water to wash our fruits and vegetables. We disinfect our kitchen counters and cutting boards with a spray bottle containing vinegar and water. Once a week, I clean the counters with Clorox.
2. Do not drink unpasteurized milk or eat homemade cheeses. E. Coli bacteria on a cow’s udder can get into raw milk.
3. Drink bottled water.
Although our water comes from our municipality, we still run it through two filter systems. One thing that does concern me is swimming in the lake during the dry season. When the lake is low and the farmers herd their cattle to the lake to drink, it can become contaminated with feces.
4. Be careful when buying bagged fruit from street vendors.
We watched a street vendor cut and bag fruit. After she cut the fruit, she used the same knife to clean under her fingernails.
5. Get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B. Why do you need them?
Hepatitis is a viral infection, not bacterial. Antibiotics will usually kill bacteria, but they are not effective against viruses.
I know it’s impossible to live in a vacuüm. We try to take precautions, but we live in a developing country where horses, cows, and pigs run freely, where the locals milk their cows and goats without a clue to proper sanitation, where the local chicken ladies start their cooking fires with plastic bags, and where geckos, chickens, and other animals have no respect for the placement of their poop.
I suspect the mangoes were the cause of Ron’s infection…but, quien sabe. We still graciously accept the gifts of fresh cream and cheese from Marina’s cow Princesa, yet when she leaves, we throw it away or feed it to some stray dogs in the neighborhood. It’s too difficult to explain in Spanish and she would never understand. Honestly, the locals think every sickness is a kidney infection. When I returned, everyone wanted to know how Ron’s kidneys were functioning.
Please take precautions when living or visiting a developing country. There are some BAD NEWS microorganisms out there!